Medical Association to discuss setting up a system to help treat medical professionals with mental health problems The Medical Association will this week discuss setting up a group to treat medical professionals with mental health problems, following a doctor's suicide at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Lo Hong-yuen, 54, was found hanged in his office by his wife on Sunday afternoon. Police classified his death as suicide. Friends said Lo had felt under pressure meeting patients' needs with limited resources. But others described Lo, who was in a management position, as a happy man with a daughter who had graduated as a doctor and a son attending medical school in the UK. His death has sparked criticism of the lack of a channel for doctors to seek early treatment for mental problems such as depression. International studies have found medicine to be among the professions with the highest suicide rates. Medical Association president Gabriel Choi Kin said yesterday doctors were more hesitant than others to see psychologists or psychiatrists as they feared their careers would be ruined if their problems were exposed. 'If a doctor's mental health problem is reported to the Medical Council, their fitness to practise will be called into question. It will affect his chances for promotion or even result in his being struck off,' he said. Dr Choi urged the Hospital Authority to change its policies, which include subjecting doctors to frequent exams, the threat of redundancy and strict professional conduct regulations. He said he would push a proposal at the 6,500-strong association's meeting on Thursday to establish a self-help group with 'a high degree of confidentiality' to encourage medical staff to seek early treatment of mental problems. 'Of course, if their problem is such that it begins to affect their practice, we have to protect our patients. The group has to maintain a delicate balance between confidentiality and patients' rights,' he said, adding that funding could be provided by the authority or the government. Lee Sing, a veteran professor of psychiatry at Chinese University, said overseas experience showed the proposed group should limit its role to prevention, support for staff with mild mental problems and screening for those who need further treatment. To ensure confidentiality and professionalism, he said it should refer those in need of help to private psychiatrists. 'The proposal is a cost-saving measure when considering the loss of tax money, medical expertise and management skills when doctors commit suicide,' said Dr Lee. The treatable rate for depression was as high as 80 per cent, but fewer than 10 doctors had consulted him as patients in the past 20 years. 'A depression patient is like somebody constantly wearing a pair of dark glasses. He simply does not have the ability to see the blue sky and white clouds. This is something that outsiders fail to understand and early professional treatment is required,' he said. Chronic insomnia, low energy, little appetite, no confidence and self-blame are among the symptoms, he said. The governments of Australia, Japan and the mainland provided funding for mental health surveys in recent years. But similar territory-wide studies in Hong Kong had not been conducted in the past two decades.